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Insights on Language, National Security and Online Gaming

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Written by Larry Kuznar, PhD, Chief Cultural Sciences Officer

Have you felt the thrill of an Alliance victory or humiliation at a Horde defeat in World of Warcraft? Have you felt the brotherhood of being an Assassin fighting the machinations of the Knights Templar in Assassin’s Creed? Have you placed an optical sight bead on a Spetsnaz operator in Call of Duty? If so in all of these cases and so many more, you have been transported into an alternate reality in which you have assumed an identity with a group against another group. How does that happen?

NBI researchers, working from anthropological studies of myth and applications to national security problems, have identified specific ways that language can be used to transport a consumer, and most important, captivate that consumer into that alternate reality. The parallels between real world political movements and the gaming world are fascinating if not chilling and vice versa. Consider the following powerful themes that have motivated people to join political (or even extremist) movements, and in other contexts, drive game play.

A sense of defiance against being victimized is often a galvanizing force that transports an individual into another’s world.

Religious themes resonate with all people that take one above one’s worldly existence.

Glorified sacrifice and martyrdom resonate with people.

The anthropologist Lionel Tiger pointed out in his classic 1969 book, “Men in
Groups”, graphic violence is especially resonant to young males, in modern times,
often for nefarious purposes

These few examples highlight key themes that are intended to inspire action for what is being portrayed as an exalted cause, whether that cause is in real life or in a video game. Many of these themes can still be found in abundance, in current political discourse. These factors tap into deeply rooted sociological and cultural tendencies, regardless of era or ethnicity.Why is this important for video game companies to understand? In mapping player

Why is this important for video game companies to understand? In mapping player journeys, and understanding how to keep people engaged throughout the game, careful management and monitoring of these themes is critical in maintaining active users and lowering churn. Specifically:Are themes such as victimization, religious, martyrdom/sacrifice, or calls to

Our approach is to apply these cultural/anthropological concepts to thematic and sentiment analysis of player discourse, to help minimize churn, guide merchandizing decisions, and maximize DLC uptake. Every game has its own unique language and culture, and as a result, these themes are expressed differently for different games. However, understanding and managing them can mean the difference between a “one and done” approach to campaign mode, versus an ongoing transition into player-vs.- player modes, and willingness to continue to engage with a particular faction within a game.

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